Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said.
1. Is it so certain as we sometimes assume it to be that this poem was intended to explain the mystery of human life? Is it even certain that a logical explanation of that mystery is either possible or desirable to creatures such as we are in such a world as this? The path of logic is not commonly the path of faith. Logic may convince the reason, but it cannot bend the will or change the heart. God teaches us, — Jehovah taught Job, — as we teach children, by the mystery of life, by its illusions and contradictions, by its intermixtures of evil with good, of sorrow with joy; by the questions we are compelled to ask even though we cannot answer them, by the problems we are compelled to study although we cannot solve them. And is not this His best way?
2. But if the "answer" of Jehovah disappoints us, it satisfied Job; and not only satisfied him, but swept away all his doubts and fears in a transport of gratitude and renewed love. Expecting to hear some conclusive argument, we overlook the immense force and pathos of the fact, that Jehovah spake to Job at all. What Job could not bear was that God should abandon as well as afflict him. It was not what God said, but that God did speak to him, brought comfort.
3. Still the question recurs: What was it that recovered Job to faith and peace and trust? Was there absolutely nothing in the answer of Jehovah out of the tempest to meet the inquest of his beseeching doubts? Yes, there was something, but not much. There is an argument of hints and suggestions. It meets the painful sense of mystery which oppressed Job. God simply says, we should not let that mystery distress us, because there are mysteries everywhere. Another argument is, Consider these mysteries and parables of Nature, and what they reveal of the character and purpose of Him by whom they were created and made. You can see that they all work together for good. May not the mystery of human life and pain be as beneficent? God does not argue with us, nor seek to force our trust; for no man was ever yet argued into love, or could even compel his own child to love and confide in him. Trust and love are not to be forced, but won. God may have to deal with us as we deal with our children. Not by logical arguments, which convince our reason, but by tender appeals which touch and break our hearts, our Father conquers us at last, and wins our love and trust forever.
(Samuel Cox, D. D.)
(Heinrich A. Von Ewald.)
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
I. The first thing to consider is, how EASILY THE MOST INNOCENT THINGS MAY BECOME HARMFUL AND DANGEROUS. A child may sleep in the morning breeze. What is softer than the dewdrop as it releases the aroma of the fields that we drink in with so much pleasure? And yet with what terrific force it sweeps on when changed into the tornado and flood! How great, therefore, the power for destruction in the simplest. In the souls of men there are forces no less terrible than those in physical nature that, held by a slight restraint, keep in check vices, which, were they loose, would carry devastation into society.
II. The second principle TEACHES THAT DESTRUCTIVE THINGS MAY BECOME BENEFICIAL. At first we shrink from the approaching storm, property is lost, homes destroyed, and yet we learn from viewing the scene of desolation that storms may be beneficial. Do we think of the poison in the atmosphere, and how the storm has taken it up and blown it away, giving us in its place a pure atmosphere? A few lives may be given to the tornado, but you and I have been given purer air. The soldier in the same manner dies for his country. These may be great mysteries. The storm may destroy much, but it blesses us all. The cyclones in the spiritual world strike us, but give us a better vision; they purify our spiritual atmosphere, and let us see nearer the world to which we are journeying.
III. The third teaching of the tornado is HOW THE SIMPLE THINGS BECOME INSCRUTABLE. Man's knowledge seems to extend to a certain point. God said to the sea: "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther." But the storm may bring great blessings. We live in a little circle of light; we see but a few feet, and know not but the next step may be into infinite blackness; but if God is with us it does not matter. The three lessons, considered together, teach us that this world is an island in the midst of a great ocean. We are like the mariners on the lake — the more the storm rages the more lights will be turned toward the haven. We all need a refuge from the storm. Some seek it in the sciences and philosophy; but the only haven is in the arms of Jesus, where there is at least heaven, sweet, blessed heaven, for the burdened and weary.
(George C. Lorimer, D. D.)
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Homilist.God would impress on Job his utter ignorance of the world in which he lived, and his incompetency to interpret His moral administration. The moral is this — Be concerned, Job, for a moral trust in My character, rather than for a theoretical knowledge of My ways. In the text there is a Divine challenge in relation to the when and how of the origin of the world.
I. THE WHEN. His ignorance as to when He began His creation. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?"
II. THE HOW. "Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?" Conclusion — The subject serves —
1. To rebuke all disposition to pronounce an opinion upon the ways of God.
2. To suggest that our grand effort ought to be to cultivate a loving trust in the Divine character, rather than to comprehend the Divine procedure. Comprehend Him we never can.
3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious services of Christianity. The question, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" confounds and crushes me. I feel powerless before it, it overwhelms me with a sense of my own insignificance. Christianity comes to my relief. It tells me that although I am insignificant, I am still a child, a beloved child of the Everlasting, and that it is not the will of my Father that any, even of His "little ones," should perish; nay, that it is His good pleasure that I should have a kingdom.
II. III. IV. 1. Independent in being. 2. In action. This subject serves — (1) (2) 3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity. (Homilist.)
III. IV. 1. Independent in being. 2. In action. This subject serves — (1) (2) 3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity. (Homilist.)
IV. 1. Independent in being. 2. In action. This subject serves — (1) (2) 3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity. (Homilist.)
1. Independent in being.
2. In action. This subject serves —
3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity. (Homilist.)
3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity.
I. SOME LEADING IDEAS RESPECTING THE DIVINE WORK OF CREATION. Notice —
1. The hoary and venerable antiquity of the work, and its entire independence of the power and wisdom of man. Many an upstart of yesterday imagines himself capable to investigate and define every subject. The questions of the text lead us to contemplate the creating work as mysterious and unsearchable.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH MEDITATIONS ON THIS WORK OF CREATION MAY BE MOST PROFITABLY CONDUCTED. Philosophers will afford delightful aid to the more studious observer of the universe. The grand philosophy is in the Bible, where resounds the voice of God Himself, describing His own operations. But there is still needed the specially illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit of God. This influence is to be sought by prayer, while the proper means are diligently used.
III. THE IMPORTANT ENDS AND USES TO WHICH MEDITATIONS OF THIS KIND OUGHT TO BE DIRECTED AND APPLIED. The agency of the Spirit is particularly manifest in sanctifying devout meditations to their proper end. By meditations properly conducted, a habit of spirituality is acquired, and an ability to bring the mind close to the contemplation of Divine things. Here is the porch of the temple of wisdom. There is the foot of the ladder, whereby the soul at length ascends to heaven. Nor is the utility of such meditations confined to the infancy of religious wisdom; it follows us up to the very gates of heaven, yea, into heaven itself.
(J. Love, D. D.)
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?
I. ITS FUTURE INHABITANTS. It was to be the house of a great family, and the school of a great character.
1. It was designed for the abode of a race, and not merely of those two individuals who were first placed in solitude and innocence upon it; and the destinies of that race, as of the individuals composing it, would fluctuate.
2. It was to be the school of human character. Earth was to be a scene of probation and discipline. The creature who was to be formed upon it was to be susceptible of improvement and progress. If the creature have capacities for the infinite, while the sphere on which it moves is finite, this must prove that the sphere is only preparatory — an introduction to a higher stage.
II. TO GOD. Earth was destined to be a temple of God, from every corner of which should ascend to Him continually the incense of praise — where He should signally manifest His glory, and develop His perfections.
III. TO THE STRIFE WITH EVIL. Man should become a sinner, and alienate himself from God. Then arose this difficulty — How was this moral mischief to be repaired?
(E. M. Goulburn, D. C. L.)
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for Joy?
I. THOSE SPOKEN OF IN IT. "Morning stars," "Sons of God." With a star we connect the ideas of brightness and beauty, but with a morning star, peculiar brightness and beauty. "My angels," God says to us, "are morning stars." Angels are not "sons" as the Everlasting Son is. They are called sons by mere grace and favour. The name shows the abundance of God's love to them.
II. WHAT THESE ANGELS ARE SAID TO HAVE DONE. They sang. Singing is the language of happy feeling. They "sang together." Here comes in the idea of union, harmony, oneness of feeling and joy, among these morning stars. God loves this oneness of feeling. They "shouted for joy." This invests the figure with a sublimity and majesty.
III. THE OCCASION FOR ALL THIS REJOICING. It was called forth by the creation of the world.
1. The joy of these angels was a joy of admiration. They sang together, because they were struck together with the beauty of the world.
2. It was a song of praise. Because the world discovered to them in every part of it the perfections of God.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. THE PERSONS, OR BEINGS, HERE SPOKEN OF. They must be the "angels," those glorious spirits who were formed before the earth. For "sons of God" the Greek has, "all my angels"; and an ancient Jewish paraphrase has "all the armies of heaven." The angels are called "morning stars" on account of their lustre, and the purity of their natures. In Scripture, persons of eminent stations are described as "stars." They are called "sons of God," because produced by Him, who is the Father of spirits, the Father of the whole family in heaven and earth. They may be so styled, because they resemble Him in their natures, partake of His Divine and glorious image; or they may be called His "sons" as men are.
II. WHAT OCCASIONED THEIR JOYFUL SONGS AND SHOUTS OF PRAISE?
1. The magnificence and beauty of the creation.
2. The glories of the Divine architect displayed in it.
3. They rejoiced on account of the uses for which the earth was designed. The angels are benevolent beings, and bear the image of God in love. Application —(1) The creation was a glorious work, and claims our admiration and our praise.(2) The works of God are worthy our serious and diligent study.(3) Did the angels rejoice in the creation of God, then, they must be grieved at everything that defaces and dishonours the creation.(4) They would more rejoice in the new creation. The new creation by Jesus Christ is chiefly a display of God's moral perfections, His justice and patience, his faithfulness and goodness, His holiness and mercy. It is a scheme which at once secures the honour of the Divine government, and the recovery and happiness of fallen creatures.(5) What joy and shouting will there be among the angels at the last day. When the mystery of God shaft be accomplished, and the redemption of all His people shall be completed.
(Job Orton, S. T. P.)
Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.
1. The Lord Chancellor, speaking on the Burials Bill, remarked that we English people must draw the line as to the requirements of the religious ceremony in the churchyards of our country, by saying that it must be a Christian service. Every rational person will consent to that drawing of the line at the word "Christian," by which I understand is meant a service which acknowledges God and a life beyond the grave.
2. We draw the line in giving evidence in Courts of Justice and in entering Parliament. A man cannot be believed and trusted unless he either takes an oath, or affirms that he will be truthful and faithful. It is absurd as well as insulting to an Englishman to make him swear that he is telling the truth; and I hope that, before long, in our courts of justice we shall simply affirm before giving evidence — "I promise, on my word of honour, to tell the truth."
3. The line is also drawn in things of great social and moral importance. In questions of modesty. There are some books against which you have to draw the line of exclusion, and to say, "No, I draw the line at these books; they shall not enter my house." It is right to draw the line somewhere. With all due deference to those who say, "To the pure all things are pure," a line ought to be drawn in the admission of pictures to public exhibitions. A line ought to be drawn against such demoralising works of art, no matter if a prince were the artist. Draw the line too in your conversation. Do not join in any jokes or stories which go too far over the edge of modesty, but rebuke it in every shape and way. Modesty is woman's sweetest glory, and man's richest crown.
4. Draw the right line in the respect due one to another. Let us not respect a man for his money, but for his manhood.
5. Draw the right line in questions of religion. Not a line of intolerance and exclusiveness. Some people presumptuously draw a line around God's heart; they encroach on the prerogative of God, saying that He cannot save every man. What a libel on God.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?
Homilist.The allusion here is to the state which in the Hebrew is called Sheol, and in the Greek, Hades; which means the dark abode of the dead.
I. THE MENTAL DARKNESS THAT ENSHROUDS US. All the phenomena of the heavens, the earth, and the multiform operations of the Creator, referred to in this Divine address, were designed and fitted to impress Job with the necessary limitation of his knowledge, and the ignorance that encircled him on all questions; and the region of death is but one of the many points to which he is directed as an example of his ignorance. How ignorant are we of the great world of departed men! What a thick veil of mystery enfolds the whole! What questions often start within us to which we can get no satisfactory reply, either from philosophy or the Bible! I am thankful that we are left in ignorance —
1. Of the exact condition of each individual in that great and ever-growing realm. In general, the Bible tells us that the good are happy and the wicked miserable. This is enough. We would have no more light.
2. Of our exact proximity to the great realm of the departed. We would not have the day or the hour disclosed.
II. THE SOLEMN CHANGE THAT AWAITS US. "The gates" have not opened to us, but must.
1. The gates are in constant motion. No sooner are they closed to one, than another enters.
2. The gates open to all classes. There are gates to be only entered by persons of distinction.
3. The gates open only one way — into eternity.
4. The gates separate the probationary from the retributionary.
5. The gates are under supreme authority.
III. THE WONDERFUL MERCY THAT PRESERVES US.
1. We have always been near those gates.
2. Thousands have. gone through since we began the journey of life.
3. We have often been made to feel ourselves near. In times of personal affliction; and in times of bereavement.
IV. THE SERVICE CHRISTIANITY RENDERS US.
1. It assures us there is life on the other side the gates.
2. It assures us there is blessedness on the other side the gates.
3. It takes away the instinctive repugnance we feel in stepping through those gates. "It delivers those who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage." It takes the sting of death away, etc.
1. The metaphor suggests to us how ignorant we are of the period at which our mortal lives must terminate. Canst thou look into the secret chambers of the Almighty, and say which of the ten thousand ways of leaving this world, is the precise one thou shalt be under the necessity of taking? How often does the king of terrors take one and pass another by. The number of years we are to fill; the nature of the death we are to die; the spot where and the manner how; all are infallibly known to God; nay, were so long before we were born, or the earth itself was formed on which we dwell. From us these futurities are wisely and mercifully concealed. "Death's thousand doors stand open" as the poet says, but through which of them we are to pass is only known unto Him who hath appointed to all flesh the bounds of their habitation.
2. The metaphor suggests to us that we are very much in the dark as to the nature of the invisible world. Canst thou clearly discern, through the opened gates, the condition of that world which lies beyond the present, the occupation of its inhabitants, the pursuits in which they are engaged, or the views they entertain? We know there is such a state. We are told it shall forever be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. But we are left very much in the dark as to particulars. Many curious and interesting questions naturally occur to a thinking and. Some think that from the moment the breath departs, all spiritual life and consciousness are suspended until the day of resurrection. But such a theory can easily be shown to be preposterous and untenable. All things go to prove that, as it is appointed unto all men once to die, so immediately after death cometh judgment, not the general judgment of the last day, but the particular judgment that shall pass on every individual.
3. The metaphor suggests that it becomes us to express ourselves with great caution when at any time we speak of the dead. There are two propositions of which we cannot be too confident.(1) That they who die in the Lord are blessed.(2) That such as die unregenerate shall be eternally miserable. But we may err widely in the application of them. We cannot know, with absolute certainty, the state of another man's soul. God has not constituted us judges in the matter. Learn —
1. The propriety of considering our latter end.
2. The folly of rash speculations upon the nature of the invisible world. What God has taught us, it becomes us diligently to ponder; what He has thought proper to conceal, let us religiously abstain from intermeddling with.
3. To see abundant cause of thankfulness to God for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What, but for this, must have been our future prospects? He who lay in mortal slumber in Joseph's tomb has come back to tell that death shall be swallowed up in victory, and that they who believe on Him shall never perish.
(J. L. Adamson.)
Job 38:17, Psalm 107:18, and Psalm 9:13, are synonymous with the "gates of hell," spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 16:18, meaning the gates of Hades, or the vast regions of the unseen state. They are all at the terminus of life's pilgrimage, and the believer who has passed through the "gates of righteousness," spoken of in Psalm 118:19, when he approaches these amazing portals, may use the triumphant language of David, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors." These gates, as John says, have names written thereon. Over the first is written —
1. Mystery. One pillar seems to rest on time, and the other on eternity, opening into the unknown, where from this side the deepest shadows lie; and some say, "There is nothing beyond"; others, "With what body do they come?" others, "What are their employments, company, and conditions?" and yet others, "Do they know us there, and can they visit us there?"
2. Change is written over another. To the most it opens as a surprise. On this side men say, "A man is dead," and on the other, "A man is born." As they go through, the old become young, the poor rich, the despised honourable, and the little great; so that all are not on the other side what they were on this.
3. Immortality is written upon the next, clearly read by the Christian, yet to the mass of mankind in the past, traceable only in shadowy hieroglyphics.
4. Infinity is another. Here all is rudimental — our works, successes, attainments, yet suggestive of immense possibilities, awakening curiosity, and animating to activity. Our field of action is here limited by the very conditions of our existence; yet with the barriers of sense removed, we shall have unlimited ideas of space, power, employment, knowledge, and progress.
5. Reward is the title of another, which will receive us into the presence of the King, saying, "My reward is with Me, and I will give unto every man as his work shall be"; rewards according to our works, and not for them, yet all the better because through the riches of His grace; every man in his own order, yet each compensated according to his capacity. There are those who shall be great in the kingdom of heaven, and others who shall be least.
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?
The Study.I. THE BEAUTY OF THESE "TREASURES." The manifold pleasing forms shaped by the different objects on which it falls; the broad white coverlet of the expansive plain; the undulating hills; the mountain peaks, whose white vestures are seen afar off like interceding high priests. Suggesting to the spiritual eye the infinite resources at the command of the Creator, and the incomprehensible variety and fulness of moral splendours that lie folded up in His character and revelations.
II. THE PRESERVING AND FRUCTIFYING POWERS CONTAINED IN THESE "TREASURES." Their power to preserve vegetable life and make the soil richer for its temporary white shroud. Suggestions here arise of the Divine love and wisdom that visit the souls of men in the cold garb of sorrow and pain. The killing process is always one of pain in the human world; the analogy of which, without the pain, we have in the vegetable kingdom. The snow kills and destroys. So does pain and sorrow; but it kills only those influences that are opposed to the life and fruitfulness of after-growths. Are not the purposes of affliction equally beneficial? What a garden of spices has the heart become through some cold and biting winter's visitation of sorrow!
III. There is, then, A PURGING AND PURIFYING POWER IN THESE TREASURES OF THE SNOW. In moral and spiritual discipline we have seen this to be the case. But have we "entered into" the truth that lies still deeper, and is vital to all soul purifying? Where shall we look for the power to stay the death weeds of sin, and the world's widespread guilt, if we discover it not in the power that is beautifully typified by the Psalmist in the snow? "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). God's "treasures" of wisdom, and knowledge, and salvation, are locked up in Him who, in His love and humiliation, spread the mantle of His torn flesh over the world's festering evil. And out of the death has come the world's life — purity, peace, hope, radiant with celestial plumage.
IV. WHAT SILENT FORCES BELONG TO THE SNOW! During the quiet hours of night, it falls — falls — falls — so softly, so stealthily, that its descent does not disturb even the invalid's slumbers; but as we look out in the morning dawn we see broad acres covered with high heaps of compact snow. What busy hands and noisy machinery would be needed to convey a one thousandth part of what you see from your window, from one locality to another, within the same space of time that elapsed during its fall! And how would the chaste and fleecy material be spoilt by the transit, no longer pure as it came from its heavenly birthplace. The Church needs, with its soul eye, to "enter into" this lesson of the "treasures" of silent forces. The disciples of the Master have too long been making a great deal of noise in the discharge of their mission, and in many cases substituting the noise for the work. The true workers are a silent band who in much prayer and few words, with Christlike examples and little interest in verbal creeds, whose voices are seldom heard in the streets, and whose names are seldom announced in the papers, are, nevertheless, among the real moral and spiritual forces of the world.
V. HAVE WE CONSIDERED, IN THE HOUR OF OUR GREAT BEREAVEMENTS, THE "TREASURES" OF CONSOLATION SUGGESTED BY THE SNOW? What a springtide of immortal splendours will yet issue from the human seeds that lie covered over by the cold pall of death! In the light of the resurrection we sometimes feel very rich in the "treasures" of which death has made us conscious, — "the roses that are to come out of the snow."
Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?
I. THE SUPERNATURALNESS OF PHYSICAL FORCES. Modern science tends to habituate us to regard the world as a machine, the play of blind forces, requiring no explanation beyond its own nexus of causes and effects. Our text contains a far grander and more inspiring conception, telling us that the profoundest fact in creation is not "law," but "life." Natural laws are the expression of the Divine life, but do not exhaust it.
II. THE ETHICAL END OF PHYSICAL FORCES. They are God's warriors, treasured up for the day of battle. And what does God fight for? That He may universalise the kingdom of love, that He may see in the world as in a perfect mirror His own image. Clearly, then, creation is not a dull round of cause and effect, perpetual motion without a meaning. Nay, it is all set in the kingdom of love. Love lights the stars, and speeds them on their way. The treasured snow and haft fight for the kingdom of love, or else they would cease to be treasured up. For everything that will not help to bring in the reign of love shall perish. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting for the glory of the sons of God.
Against the day of battle and war.Psalm 18).
I. THE TREASURES IN THE ARMOURY OF JEHOVAH.
1. Treasures of snow and hail. That vapour, ascending from the earth, and floating over our heads in the air, descends in small white flakes, is a sensible truth; but how the particles of vapour condense and adhere, how they assume the shape, and colour, and quality of snow, are questions too high for us, and must be resolved into the will and power of God. Hail, as a body of condensed vapour, is well known. Dreadful is the execution which it has done among the enemies of the Lord (Exodus 9:25; Joshua 10:11).
2. The air is the storehouse where snow and hail are collected and laid up. This magnificent fabric, the dimensions of which are unknown, is a glorious effect of the wisdom and power of the great Builder. Storey is founded upon storey, and sphere raised over sphere. At God's command every exhalation appears, and without resisting His will, assumes the shape and fills the place which He hath appointed.
3. The treasures of snow and hail are under the care and direction of the Lord of heaven and earth. Over these His power is unlimited, and in and by these He doth whatsoever pleaseth Him.
4. These treasures are inaccessible to man. Are there secrets in the air which we cannot discover, and operations in that storehouse of vapour which we are not able to explain; then why do men of penetration stumble at mysteries in religion, or reject truths which God has revealed, because these are not comprehensible by reason? "Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?"
II. THE TIME OF TROUBLE AND THE DAY OF BATTLE AND WAR. There may indeed be trouble when there is not war, but a day of war is always a time of trouble.
1. Rebellion is the cause of these operations. The existence of rebellion "against the Lord, the God of the whole earth, cannot be denied. Enemies and rebels are the real characters of multitudes in this generation.
2. These operations are penal operations, or punishments of rebellion against the laws of His kingdom.
3. These operations of Divine wrath and power are just and holy proceedings against the rebellious.
III. THE RESERVATION OF THE SNOW AND THE HAIL IN THE TREASURES OF THE LORD. In the expression there is a greatness becoming the majesty of the Speaker, and the state and grandeur of the Sovereign. The following particulars will help us to understand the sublime expression which the Lord of all uses concerning His operations.
1. The vapour, which fills the treasures of the snow and the hail, is raised, collected, condensed, and stored by the power of God.
2. The treasures, which are filled and stored by the power of God, are poised and balanced by His wisdom. These wondrous works are executed according to a determined and preconceived plan.
3. The snow and the hail are detained in the treasures until the time of trouble, and the day of battle and war. Inferences —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (A. Shanks.)
(2) (3) (4) (A. Shanks.)
(3) (4) (A. Shanks.)
To cause it to rain on the earth.
I. GOD ALONE GIVETH RAIN AND THE SAME IS TRUE OF GRACE. We say of rain and of grace, — God is the sole author of it. He devised and prepared the channel by which it comes to earth. He hath "divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters." The Lord makes a way for grace to reach His people. He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew, — to every believer his portion of grace. He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure. He holds it in His power. Absolutely at His own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul.
II. RAIN FALLS IRRESPECTIVE OF MEN AND SO DOES GRACE. Grace waits not man's observation. As the rain falls where no man is, so grace courts not publicity. Nor his cooperation. It "tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men" (Micah 5:7). Nor his prayers. Grass calls not for rain, yet it comes. "I am found of them that sought Me not" (Isaiah 65:1). Nor his merits. Rain falls on the waste ground.
III. RAIN FALLS WHERE WE MIGHT LEAST HAVE EXPECTED IT. It falls where there is no trace of former showers, even upon the desolate wilderness; so does grace enter hearts which had hitherto been unblest, where great need was the only plea which rose to heaven (Isaiah 35:7). It falls where there seems nothing to repay the boon. Many hearts are naturally as barren as the desert (Isaiah 35:6). It falls where the need seems insatiable; "to satisfy the desolate." Some cases seem to demand an ocean of grace; but the Lord meets the need; and His grace falls where the joy and glory are all directed to God by grateful hearts. Twice we are told that the rain falls "where no man is." When conversion is wrought of the Lord, no man is seen: the Lord alone is exalted.
IV. THIS RAIN IS MOST VALUED BY LIFE.
1. The rain gives joy to seeds and plants in which there is life. Budding life knows of it; the tenderest herb rejoices in it; so is it with those who begin to repent, who feebly believe, and thus are just alive.
2. The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.
3. The rain causes health and vigour of life. Is it not so with grace?
4. The rain creates the flower with its colour and perfume, and God is pleased. The full outgrowth of renewed nature cometh of grace, and the Lord is well pleased therewith. Application — Let us acknowledge the sovereignty of God as to grace. Let us cry to Him for grace. Let us expect Him to send it though we may feel sadly barren, and quite out of the way of the usual means of grace.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Wherein there is so man.
Hath the rain a father?
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Who hath begotten the drops of dew?
1. Dew is powerful. There are some countries, or parts of them, whose vegetation almost entirely depends on the dew. Ahab was heavily punished when told that for three years there should be no rain, and the punishment was greatly increased by the withdrawal of the dew as well. Similarly the power we exert over one another is very great.
2. The dew is perfectly silent. So is influence. You cannot hear the sun rise, the snow fall, or the corn grow. The greatest powers in nature are silent. Our influence, be it sweet or sour, is slipping out from us every hour, and we are all making the world a better or a worse place for living in every day.
3. The dew is very precious. When Isaac gave his dying blessing to his boys, he prayed, "God give thee of the dew of heaven." Even so influence, good influence, is very precious. I believe more good is wrought by quiet influence than by all the talking.
4. Last of all, let us remember, the dew soon passes away. Hoses complains that the "goodness of Israel goeth away as the early dew." That is to say, the dew is quickly dried up unless absorbed by the flowers and grass, just as influence is soon forgotten unless obeyed.
(J. C. Adlard.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
I. THE LIGHT OF PLEIADES IN A HUMAN SENSE. What the world wants is more light — the light of love. That sweetens all relationships, and is the only cement of all classes in our crowded communities. Love is the light of the universe. Let the rosy beams of affection shine in the character, its potent charm will be as irresistible as is the health-giving, gladdening light.
II. THE LIGHT OF THE PLEIADES IN A DIVINE SENSE. Love is never impotent — never doubtful of its triumph. Our Saviour never distrusted the issues of the Cross. While men are questioning about Him, His influences are going forth. Sin, grief, and death are still here. But men cannot take Christ out of the world.
III. THE LIGHT OF THE PLEIADES IN A HISTORIC SENSE. Light does not die. The great influence of the reformers will never be lost. You cart bind mere opinion; you can bind mere ecclesiasticism; you cannot bind the renewed Christlike soul.
IV. THE LIGHT OF THE PLEIADES IN A PERSONAL INFLUENCE SENSE. Words live long after their authors have uttered them. Deeds are vital long after great empires have passed away. Words and deeds go through the electric chain of schools, and families, and churches. None can bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades at home or abroad.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. HOW ABSOLUTE IS THE RULE OF THE MOST HIGH IN THE NATURAL WORLD. Can man alter the Divine dispensations, or so much as either hasten or delay them? Let us mark our absolute dependence, and humble ourselves before the Almighty Ruler.
II. HE WHO RULES IN THE KINGDOM OF NATURE RULES ALSO IN THAT OF PROVIDENCE. The events of life are no less under His control than are the stars in their courses. Canst thou compel or retain the sweet influences of prosperity; or canst thou loosen the bands of adversity? All our comfort and satisfaction, whether of a bodily or mental kind, is received from Him; and, when He pleases, is in a moment wrested from us. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, come and go at His command. It is true that men themselves, being free and intelligent creatures, do by their character and conduct modify and influence their fate and fortune; but this they do only in accordance with the laws of providence, How important it is that we should be earnest and faithful in improving the varying dispensations of providence which are successively appointed for our trial.
III. HE WHO RULES IN NATURE AND PROVIDENCE RULES ALSO IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE. If we look within, we shall find new proofs of our ignorance and weakness, and absolute dependence on the Author of our being. Can you loose the bands of guilt, or compel the sweet influences of pardoning mercy? God only can remit our offences; and the means He has employed for this end, in the incarnation, sufferings, and death of His own dear Son, afford the clearest demonstration of the foolishness of human wisdom, and the impotence of human power in this high concern.
(H. Grey, D. D.)
Homilist.The Pleiades are a well-known cluster of stars in the constellation of Taurus. The ancients were in the habit of determining their seasons by the rising and setting of certain constellations. The Pleiades were regarded as the cardinal constellations of spring. These seven stars appear about the middle of April, and hence are associated with the return of spring, the season of sweet influences. The Hebrew word is derived from a word signifying delights. The influences of spring are delightful in many ways —
I. AS TEMPORAL MINISTRIES. These influences come to bring great blessings to man, as a tenant of the earth.
1. Supplies of food. They come to mollify the earth, fertilise the soil, germinate the seed out of which come the material provisions for man and beast.
2. Pleasures to the senses. Spring mantles the world with a thousand robes of beauty, all with endless variety of hue and shape.
3. Exhilarates the spirit. The influences of spring are delightful —
II. AS DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS. Spring tide is a new revelation of God. It reveals —
1. The profusion of His vital energy. Every spot teems with a new existence, and every new life is from Him.
2. The wonderful tastefulness of God. Spring brings a universe of fresh beauties to the eye.
3. The calm ease with which He works. How quietly He pours forth those oceans of new life that are now rolling over the earth.
4. The regularity of His procedure. For 6000 years spring has never failed to come.
III. AS INSTRUCTIVE EMBLEMS.
1. Spring is an emblem of human life. Both have vast capabilities of improvement. Both are remarkably changeable. Both are fraught with fallacious promises.
2. Spring is an emblem of spiritual renovation.(1) The new spiritual life is like the spring in the season from which it has emerged.(2) In the tenacity with which the past strives to keep its hold.(3) It tends to a perfect future. The power of winter will gradually give way; summer will come, and then the golden autumn.
3. Spring is an emblem of the general resurrection, The Bible looks at it in this light (1 Corinthians 15:36, 41).(1) Spring life is a resuscitation; it is not properly a new creation, it grows out of the past.(2) Spring life is a resuscitation from an apparently extinct life. "That which thou sowest is not quickened unless it die."(3) Spring life is a resuscitation against which many antecedent objections might have been raised. So with the resurrection of the body.
(A. G. Dixon, D. D.)
pleein, to sail, because it indicated the time when the sailor might hope to undertake a voyage with safety. It was also called Vergiliae, from ver, the spring, because it ushered in the mild vernal weather, favourable to farming and pastoral employments. The Greek poets associated it with that beautiful mythology which, in its purest form, peopled the air, the woods, and the waters with imaginary beings, and made the sky itself a concave mirror, from which came back exaggerated ideal reflections of humanity. The seven stars were supposed to be the seven daughters of Atlas, by Pleione, one of the Oceanides — placed in the heavens after death. Their names are Alcyone, Merope, Main, Electra, Taygeta, Asterope, and Celaeno. They were all united to the immortal gods, with the exception of Merope, who married Sisyphus, King of Corinth, and whose star, therefore, is dim and obscure among her sisters. The "lost Pleiad," the "sorrowing Merope," has long been a favourite shadowy creation of the poetic dream. But an interest deeper than any derived from mythical association or classical allusion, is connected with this group of stars by the use made of it in Scripture. I believe that in the apparently simple and passing allusion to it in Job, lies hid the germ of one of the greatest of physical truths — a germ lying dormant and concealed in the pages of Scripture for ages, but now brought into air and sunlight by the discoveries of science, and developing flowers and fruit of rare value and beauty. If our translators have correctly identified the group of stars to which they have given the familiar name of Pleiades — and we have every reason to confide in their fidelity — we have a striking proof here afforded to us of the perfect harmony that exists between the revelations of science and those of the Bible — the one illustrating and confirming the other. So far as Job was concerned, the question, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?" might have referred solely to what was then the common belief — namely, that the genial weather of spring was somehow caused by the peculiar position of the Pleiades in the sky at that season; as if God had simply said, "Canst thou hinder or retard the spring?" It remained for modern science to make a grander and wider application of it, and to show in this, as in other instances, that the Bible is so framed as to expand its horizon with the march of discovery — that the requisite stability of a moral rule is, in it, most admirably combined with the capability of movement and progress. If we examine the text in the original, we find that the Chaldaic word translated in our version Pleiades is Chimah, meaning literally a hinge, pivot, or axle, which turns round and moves other bodies along with it. Now, strange to say, the group of stars thus characterised has recently been ascertained by a series of independent calculations — in utter ignorance of the meaning of the text — to be actually the hinge or axle round which the solar system revolves. It was long known as one of the most elementary truths of astronomy, that the earth and the planets revolve around the sun; but the question recently began to be raised among astronomers, "Does the sun stand still, or does it move round some other object in space, carrying its train of planets and their satellites along with it in its orbit?" Attention being thus specially directed to this subject, it was soon found that the sun had an appreciable motion, which tended in the direction of a lily-shaped group of small stars, called the constellation of Hercules. Towards this constellation the stars seem to be opening out; while at the opposite point of the sky their mutual distances are apparently diminishing — as if they were drifting away, like the foaming wake of a ship, from the sun's course. When this great physical truth was established beyond doubt, the next subject of investigation was the point or centre round which the sun performed this marvellous revolution: and after a series of elaborate observations, and most ingenious calculations, this intricate problem was also satisfactorily solved — one of the greatest triumphs of human genius. M. Madler, of Dorpat, found that Alcyone, the brightest star of the Pleiades, is the centre of gravity of our vast solar system — the luminous hinge in the heavens, round which our sun and his attendant planets are moving through space. The very complexity and isolation of the system of the Pleiades, exhibiting seven distinct orbs closely compressed to the naked eye, but nine or ten times that number when seen through a telescope — forming a grand cluster, whose individuals are united to each other more closely than to the general mass of stars — indicate the amazing attractive energy that must be concentrated in that spot. Vast as is the distance which separates our sun from this central group — a distance thirty-four millions of times greater than the distance between the sun and our earth — yet so tremendous is the force exerted by Alcyone, that it draws our system irresistibly around it at the rate of 422,000 miles a day, in an orbit which it will take many thousands of years to complete. With this new explanation, how remarkably striking and appropriate does the original word for Pleiades appear! What a lofty significance does the question of the Almighty receive from this interpretation! "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?" Canst thou arrest, or in any degree modify, that attractive influence which it exerts upon our sun and all its planetary worlds, whirling them round its pivot in an orbit of such inconceivable dimensions, and with a velocity so utterly bewildering? Silence the most profound can be the only answer to such a question. Man can but stand afar off, and in awful astonishment and profound humility exclaim with the Psalmist, "O Lord my God, Thou art very great!"
(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
Kesil of the ancient Chaldeans — is by far the most magnificent constellation in the heavens. Its form must be familiar to everyone who has attentively considered the nocturnal sky. It resembles the rude outline of a gigantic human figure. By the Greek mythologists, Orion was supposed to be a celebrated hunter, superior to the rest of mankind in strength and stature, whose mighty deeds entitled him after death to the honours of an apotheosis. The Orientals imagined him to be a huge giant who, Titan-like, had warred against God, and was therefore bound in chains to the firmament of heaven; and some authors have conjectured that this notion is the origin of the history of Nimrod, who, according to Jewish tradition, instigated the descendants of Noah to build the Tower of Babel. The constellation of Orion is composed of four very bright stars, forming a quadrilateral, higher than it is broad, with three equidistant stars in a diagonal line in the middle. The two upper stars, called Betelgeux and Bellatrix, form the shoulders; in the middle, immediately above these, are three small, dim stars, close to each other, forming the cheek or head. These stars are distinctly visible only on a very clear night; and this circumstance may have given rise to the old fable that (Enopion, King of Chios, — whose daughter Orion demanded in marriage, — put out his eyes as he lay asleep on the seashore, and that he recovered his sight by gazing upon the rising sun from the summit of a neighbouring hill. The constellation is therefore represented by the poets, as groping with blinded eyes all round the heavens in search of the sun. The feet are composed of two very bright stars, called Rigel and Saiph; the three stars in the middle are called the belt or girdle, and from them depends a stripe of smaller stars, forming the hunter's sword. The whole constellation, containing seventeen stars to the naked eye, but exhibiting seventy-eight in an ordinary telescope, occupies a large and conspicuous position in the southern heavens, below the Pleiades; and is often visible, owing to the brightness and magnitude of its stars, when all other constellations, with the exception of the Plough, are lost in the mistiness of night. In this country it is seen only a short space above the horizon, along whose ragged outline of dark hills its starry feet may be observed for many nights in the winter, walking in solitary grandeur. It attains its greatest elevation in January and February, and disappears altogether during the summer and autumn months. In Mesopotamia it occupies a position nearer the zenith, and therefore is more brilliant and striking in appearance. Night after night it sheds down its rays with mystical splendour over the lonely solitudes through which the Euphrates flows, and where the tents of the patriarch of Uz once stood. Orion is not only the most striking and splendid constellation in the heavens, it is also one of the few clusters that are visible in all parts of the habitable world. The equator passes through the middle of it; the glittering stars of its belt being strung, like diamonds, on its invisible line. In the beginning of January, when it is about the meridian, we obtain the grandest display of stars which the sidereal heavens in this country can exhibit. The ubiquity of this constellation may have been one of the reasons why it was chosen to illustrate God's argument with Job, in a book intended to be read universally. When the Bible reader of every clime and country can go out in the appropriate season, and find in his own sky the very constellation and direct his gaze to the very peculiarity in it, to which the Creator alluded in His mysterious converse with Job, he has no longer a vague, indefinite idea in his mind, but is powerfully convinced of the reality of the whole circumstance, while his feelings of devotion are deepened and intensified. The three bright stars which constitute the girdle or bands of Orion never change their form; they preserve the same relative position to each other, and to the rest of the constellation, from year to year, and age to age. They afford to us one of the highest types of immutability in the midst of ceaseless changes.
(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?Job 42:2). Our Bible abounds in pronouns: the "thou" of this verse is a sample. Oh! star-crowded sky, full of messages, full of God! thou art speaking to me, and thy words go right down into my heart. From every corner of that celestial map God's heralds proclaim His Word. High up in the northern heavens the Seven Stars, brightest of which shineth Alcyone, speaking for north and eastern sky, and regarded as the centre of the solar system, saith to man: "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?" Then, from the southern quarter, that large constellation, belted by three fixed stars, repeats God's own question: "Canst thou...loose the bands of Orion?" The third "canst" is from the Zodiac, such it is believed we find in the Mazzaroth of the former clause of the text. Thus do we lead up to, and the better understand, the connection of the last of these "cansts." Arcturus is a constellation familiar to us alike under the name of the "Plough," or "Charles's Wain." Job makes reference to this along with the other groups in the ninth chapter. There he speaks of God as the Maker of these various luminaries, now that God is giving him further instruction on the very same matter. We may well ask the meaning of the words "Arcturus with his sons." Mythology gives the answer. Arcturus is named from Arcas. Arcas had three sons. The constellation known as the Great Bear, and styled the glory of the northern hemisphere, has a star in the tail part called Arcturus, its very name meaning Bear Tail. It rises in the autumn, and is the precursor of tempest. The sons of Arcturus are placed in the group as three stars, somewhat similarly to Orion's belt. Are you able to guide? That is what this fourth "canst" inquires. In doing so it reminds us of the regulative influences of life.
I. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE AFFECTING A DEEP-SEATED HUMAN DESIRE. This last "canst" appeals to us even more forcibly than each or all of the other three. In some particulars it includes them, for to guide is more or less to bind and loose, check and restrain, while leading out and urging on. But even when we have no great desire to restrain influences that are operative, or to loose those that are imprisoned, and bring them into play — we have the wish to guide, arrange, and direct those already and at present in action. In its own domain such desire is quite legitimate. Its absence, indeed, would be a surprise and disappointment. Have you the guiding power? I am sure you want to say yes. I am sure you have the hope that, aided by Divine wisdom and supported by Divine grace, you can make your way through life, well and wisely. Lovers of change are ever "idly busy," seeking to rearrange the plans of others, and have their fingers in and over all that they can. Here they have no scope. Arcturus and his three sons have found place, and use, and movement in the seven lights of the Plough; guided by a Higher than thou, they can guide thee, but thou canst not guide nor interfere with them. Thou canst not guide Arcturus, but, high privilege! thou canst guide thyself, if, in the first instance, you submit to the over-guidance, overruling of God. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). The Lord of Arcturus is the Lord of His people, the Guide of His servants as well as the guide of His stars. God helps us that we may help ourselves, and that we may help others. He awakens in us those powers and faculties, crushed and stifled by sin. How then, through Him, in what way shall we guide ourselves? Training ourselves, and our powers. It is "ruling our spirit," "bridling our tongue," "mortifying our desires" (evil), etc. All these culminate in the one thought of self-control. Canst thou then guide thyself, and, in guiding, so strengthen and enrich that better selfhood that it may become a lodestar of influence? Guide myself, but not by narrow aims that end in self. Canst thou guide Arcturus and his sons? No. The world is all the better that you can't. Canst thou help some poor family of earth's sons to gain a footing or earn a living? Yes. The world is all the worse if you don't. But if you do, if you help a brother up any rugged steep of trial or duty, or steer him onward through the cross currents of temptation, then not only do you benefit others, but you also fairly and fully gratify that altruistic longing, so inwrought as to be a part of our human nature and heritage.
II. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE VIEWED IN THEIR OPERATION. We have noticed the fact that the stars we cannot guide are nevertheless guided — always, swiftly and surely, silently and well. Each fills its place or goes on its way. It requires great skill and accurate system in order to manage our railways. What far greater skill and more perfect system are required to guide the constellations — to protect from and to avert all the terrible collision and combustion that would otherwise occur! The fact is one, call it Providence, or let it be known as the gigantic machinery of life, or if you will — the age-long balancings, or pause over this phrase — the Eternal Thought. The ever-living, vigorous thought. Thought that thinks into effort, plans, purposes, leads and arranges, makes and moulds the universe, counts and carries the stars, creates and continues the life of man, rules and regulates by guiding, governing, and directing to its final goal — all that is, and all that is to be.
III. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE GLORIFYING GOD IN REDEEMING MAN. They are Christocentric — God incarnate. That is the first of a series of clearer explanations: their first translation into the mother tongue of human understanding and heart need. All that was anterior, and there was much, received its value from this nascent light; whether ornate ritual or inspired oracle, sacred bard or mystic seer. To economise, and at the same time best utilise our words, let us say that Blessed Life was the great antidote and corrective of all sin and selfishness, of all folly and meanness, all distortion and dishonour; while it furthered and fostered, guided, regulated, developed all that was worth being, because it had originally come from the Father. The Cross is in the sky, illumined and illumining. Illumined by the clear, silver starlight of the Eternal Providence, of that Providence its most comprehensive range, its farthest sweep, its largest provision. Of God's mind the highest and deepest conception; of God's thought the most sublime idea — this is the fight on the Cross. There is also the light from the Cross. It is the guide of the wandering. Our present purpose forbids the further tracing out in the Resurrection and post-Resurrection work of the Redeemer the almighty and regulative influences, the more advanced stages, through which the earth rolls onward into this ever-increasing light. Putting it all together, this is the conclusion of the matter. It is a great work to guide Arcturus, to support as well as to suspend "Charles's Wain," to regulate and maintain the sidereal system, to bind, or loose, or bring forth one, or any, of the heavenly bodies; but God has performed a greater work. God's great work is this, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).
(H. B. Aldridge.)
Canst thou send lightnings?
(T. De Witt Talmage.).